Anyone involved in managing small projects is familiar with the age-old question of what project management (PM) tool to use. Microsoft Project is the gold standard, but it is a lot of tool to throw at a small project. This post compares 5 online PM tools.
I regularly use MS Project to set up projects: it’s nice how it knows to skip weekends and link the start of a task to the end of another. But then I usually copy the data into Excel and manage it there. It’s easier to use, and easier to share with my clients and resources. However for those clients who want a weekly synch, sending Excel files and screenshots back and forth isn’t so great, so I went online to look for an online solution. Mainly I wanted a good way to track project that was also easy for my team to share and my client to see.
I looked at the following five online solutions—in this order:
I checked out the demo, and found this to be a nice and simple tool with a nice iPad-based companion app. Its approach is to track “to-do” items, but not strictly tracking projects. The price was right ($49/month for unlimited users). But I have 20+ projects at a time, all with many subtasks with different deliverables and resources and spread over multiple clients, so this wasn’t robust enough for me. Also, maybe it’s just because I’m so comfortable in Excel, this business of entering and maintaining my project data using entry forms instead of a sheet/matrix/table is cumbersome! So I looked for something else…
I signed up for the trial to look at the demo. This tool, brought to you by the good people at Intuit, is a very mature, full-blown project management and collaboration program. It looks to have a steep learning curve, but would really be a great tool and is probably worth the investment of time to master it. But it seemed to be nearly as complex as MS Project, so is overkill for my small projects, and the deal-killer for me is that it is expensive (over $200/month). So on with my search…
This is a neat looking small-footprint program. The price is low, but you’re charged per-user so you can’t just invite your whole team to the party. Similar to BaseCamp, its focus is on the tasks, not the project. I liked its collaborative calendar. I set up a few sample projects, each with 10 or so tasks. Then when I looked at the dashboard and the reports, all those tasks were all mixed in with each other – what a mess. I only spent about an hour on the site so maybe I was doing something wrong, but nope—I don’t think this is the tool I’m looking for. Not robust enough, and frankly not easy enough to use for my needs. Back to the search…
This program looks very interesting. It’s not as “overkill” as Quickbase, but much more robust than Zoho and BaseCamp. By now I was sick of signing up for free trials and looking at demos, so after my preliminary toe-tipping went straight to the price question. I could not find any pricing information, so used their contact form to ask. A friendly human replied immediately, but rather than sending me the info I requested, asked for a call to learn more about my company. I turned down the request for a phone call, and after an ensuing email thread (to which I always got extremely prompt responses), I learned that their price is $200/month + a $400 setup fee. This is way too expensive, which is too bad, because WorkZone looked great from the very tiny glimpse I got. I thought I was done and I had come up empty handed, then a friend suggested Google Docs…
5. Google Docs
Skeptical that I’d be satisfied, I went to my Google account, created a new spreadsheet, and listed all my projects. I added some columns for the overall status, due dates, and current tasks. Then I created a separate sheet for each project, and just copied in the stuff that I already was tracking in Excel. Then I went back to the first sheet and added formulas for it to pull a current project snapshot up from the individual project sheets. Invited the team to access it – and Viola! The price is great (Zero), there’s nearly no learning curve because I’m already a spreadsheet user, security is fine, and my whole team can collaborate.
Here’s a small demo of an editorial project using Google Docs
The moral of the story
For a true project management solution that is online and allows for collaboration, from my quick investigation, I’d suggest WorkZone if the price tag doesn’t bother you. But if you think $2400/year is a bit steep for software, take a look at Google Docs. As long as you’re comfortable doing stuff in Excel, then you already know how to use it. The more I look into it, the more I think I’ll explore additional Google collaboration resources.
What online project-tracking solution do you use? Do you use any of the tools I looked at? What did you think?
Click a tag for related posts:agencies audiences Basecamp blog brand business call to action community computers customer support editing email estimates fonts freelance gadgets graphics iPad job hunting logos mac marketing messaging Outlook packaging planning PowerPoint presentations productivity product review professionalism project management projects recommendations resume reviews self publishing social media stock photography Technology tradeshows web design windows Word writing
- Can we reduce travel to business meetings?
- A Blog Post about Blogging
- Serious Layout in MS Word
- A Supercomputing vocabulary primer
- Planning categories and tags for an organized blog
- Improving Your Presentations
- 1-minute Photo Improvement
- Why Do You Blog?
- Batch Processing with Affinity Photo
- The Entrepreneur’s 10-Step Condensed Business Plan
- iPad: How Old is Too Old?
- Do I Have Enough to Quit My Day Job?
- Leave Localization to the Pros
- Make Your Calendars Play Nice Together
- Free Graphics Sources
- Mirrored Margins in MS Word
- A Tale of Three Headsets
- Time to Move On
- The Event Plan: a Tradeshow Primer
- GoToWebinar Basics
- Outlook for Mac: So Close!
- From Windows to Mac
- Evernote is Awesome
- Set Up a DocBook Toolchain
- Your Professional Resume
- Stock Photography Tips
- Tricking Your Customers is Disrespectful
- Deadline Management
- Manage To-dos With Basecamp
- The Brydge+ iPad Keyboard
- LinkedIn for Job Seekers
- Week Numbers in Outlook
- Hidden Impacts of Project Schedule Delays
- Getting Started in Self-publishing
- 13 Tips for Your Blog or Newsletter
- Do Religion and Marketing Mix?
- Consistent Color = Brand Power
- Outlook Automation with “Quick Steps”
- Comment Spam: I Give Up
- Good Design Housekeeping
- File Naming Sanity
- PowerPoint Graphics Tips
- Comment Karma
- Comparing Two iPad Keyboards: ZAGG and Logitech
- Outlook Rules 101
- Consolidated Outlook Inbox
- Five Steps to Plan a Website
- Choosing a Domain
- Outlook Productivity: Tagged Searching
- Considering a Switch from Windows to Mac?
- Tradeshow Giveaways & Promotional Gifts
- Why Rush Jobs Are Evil
- Online Printing: Customer Service is King
- Estimate Etiquette
- Getting Organized With Outlook PSTs
- WordPress vs. Weebly
- Comparing 5 Online PM Tools
- Choosing your Next Non-Mac Computer
- Is it Really a Blog?
- Your Laptop’s Video Connectors
- Know Your Graphics – or Look Like You Do
- Add a Keyboard to Your iPad
- Letterhead in an Email World
- Use Simple URLs
- Keep in Touch with Your Customers With Email
- Rolling Up the Feedback
- Keep Agency Project Costs Down
- Merchandising and Your Brand
- Your Email Address and Your Brand
- B2B Social Media: Are you overlooking StumbleUpon?
- Email Marketing vs. Spam
- The Long-copy Sales Page in 5 Steps
- You Need a Writing Style Guide
- Why Reference Cards?
- Lose the Hyphen!
- The Minimalist Marketing Plan
- Your Business Name and Domain
- Trade Downloads For User Data
- Monitor Social Media For Product Feedback
- Take Every Branding Opportunity
- Messaging 101
- Creative Use of Your Customer Service Stories
- Don’t Stop With a Call To Action
- Creating a Text-based Logo
- The Reluctant Social Media Networker
- Save Money With an Effective RFQ
- User Communities and Exclusivity
- Recommendations and Your Reputation
- The iPad As Business Tool